"Trying to write my column," I said.
"Oh. It looked to me like you were just staring at the wall painting," he said. "Got me wondering if Susan had put some secret message in there."
"Maybe she did," I said, "but I'm too dense to get it. Just like in Lit class where they explained symbolism and I just thought it was a white whale. Anyway," -- I pulled a piece of newsprint out of a notebook, -- "I saved this UNICEF article from the Coloradoan about how illiteracy dooms over one billion people to poverty. There was a good quote in here. 'To achieve education for all children, the world would need to spend an additional $7 billion a year over the next 10 years.'"
"Seems like an awful lot of money," said Seymour.
"Oh they answer that." I continued reading. "This is less than is annually spent on cosmetics in the United States or on ice cream in Europe." I set the paper down. "Just think. If Europeans cut out half of their ice cream and we cut out half our deodorant, everyone in the world would be able to read."
"That reasoning stinks," said Seymour. "Even if people decided to save money, how would it be collected? And if it was collected, how would we guarantee it provided all people an education? We can't even guarantee that happening in American schools. And even if we gave all those people an education, we wouldn't necessarily improve their lives. Just being qualified for a job doesn't mean you'll get one. Let me see that article."
He grabbed the newspaper and scanned it quickly. "Yup, I don't see any definite connection. It says here that 'UNICEF found that children with no basic education will face difficulties that go far beyond supporting themselves and their families.' They even claim education is vital in helping to achieve fundamental human rights such as health, nutrition, and childbirth. I'll bet there's a statistical correlation but not a definite cause and effect. It even talks here about how many kids drop out and how many others never go to school. I suspect they are working or scavenging just to survive. If they had a decent place to live and food to eat, then they could consider going to school."
"So you don't think we should help people in other countries?" I asked.
"I'm not saying that at all," he said. "A Baha'i like yourself knows we are all one human family. And any Christian should be able to understand the injunction of being your brother's keeper, to love your fellow man as you love yourself. But it's just like a nuclear family. If you have a nephew or cousin who is gambling money away at the track while the kids go hungry, you wouldn't give him money, you'd give his kids food and other stuff he couldn't pawn."
"So we shouldn't help them out because their government will waste the funds?" I asked.
"Not exactly," he said. "We just need to help appropriately. Some people will probably benefit from having an education; others need food, medical attention, or a place to live. The cases are unique and the way to attack the problems is through individuals helping other individuals through small programs while government organizations like UNICEF help other governments get free market, rule of law, non-corruption therapy that will improve the standard for all their citizens. That's your column for you. Merry Christmas."